Firefighters in San Diego County are bracing for another day of brutal conditions Thursday as they work to contain at least half a dozen wildfires that have consumed more than 9,000 acres and destroyed multiple homes.
"In San Diego County, what we're experiencing over the last several days is high temperatures, low humidity and very high winds. That's a weather pattern that we usually see in the fall," Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said Wednesday. "All it took was the spark of a fire."
Santa Ana winds are expected to pick up again later on Thursday, fanning flames and embers across parched landscapes.
In Carlsbad, 16 homes and two commercial structures were destroyed or damaged by fast-moving flames that hopscotched steep canyons, as erratic winds blew embers that created new spot fires, city officials said.
The Poinsettia fire, which was 60% contained as Thursday morning, gave homeowners only minutes to gather treasured belongings and pets and flee.
"There was just no time," said Greg Staska, 63, whose adobe home was destroyed. "But it's OK; I'm alive."
The Carlsbad Fire Department estimated the initial loss at $22.5 million, with eight homes, an 18-unit apartment complex and two commercial structures either damaged or destroyed.
At Camp Pendleton, where a blaze had charred 6,000 acres, eight Navy and Marine helicopters were making repeated water drops as thick clouds of smoke rose into the sky. The Tomahawk fire, which was 20% contained as of Thursday morning, prompted evacuations of two housing areas on the base and two schools, one on the Marine base and one in nearby Fallbrook.